Freedom of the Press Foundation, along with dozens of other press freedom and human rights organizations, are calling upon the U.S. Justice Department today to officially close the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange for publishing information in the public interest. (See the full letter to Attorney General Eric Holder below.)
Since 2010 when WikiLeaks started releasing the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and tens of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, Julian Assange and his fellow WikiLeaks employees and volunteers have been the subject of an aggressive and chilling grand jury investigation against their publishing activity. The ongoing probe involving the DOJ, FBI and at least 10 other agencies has issued subpoenas for the Twitter accounts of WikiLeaks associates, read the emails of its staff, called for people to testify and give evidence, and employed confidential informants for gathering information. Meanwhile, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show that the U.S. has pressured other countries to prosecute WikiLeaks and that the British intelligence agency GCHQ has even spied on readers of their website.
All of this happened as a consequence of doing what news organizations are supposed to do: informing the public of what goes on in secret, detailing the true nature of wars, and shedding light upon diplomacy that shapes events around the globe. The grand jury that is investigating WikiLeaks has dragged on for nearly four years. Despite the fact that anonymous sources at the Justice Department have told the Washington Post that they are leaning heavily against indicting Assange, recent court documents confirm that investigation is still active. This is an abuse of the grand jury process and seems intended to keep WikiLeaks in legal limbo so they donât know what or what not to expect. If this were done to a US news organization, there would be widespread outrage across the political spectrum.
Fundamentally WikiLeaks is a publisher and media organization, and one whose work is protected by the First Amendment in the USA, whether or not you agree with Assange's political or personal views. Ultimately, an indictment of WikiLeaks or its editor-in-chief for anything related to publishing could effectively criminalize the newsgathering process and place journalists and their sources at risk. This multi-agency investigation undermines the commitment of the U.S. government to transparency, freedom of speech and of the press, as well as principles of democratic governance. It needs to end. You can read our joint letter below. If you are an organization that would like to join the letter, please email [email protected].
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